Health Min: New Covid rules could be ready by Friday; Restrictions through February likely
Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said that “it’s a bit on the early side” that the Cabinet wants to make a decision this Friday about further expanding the new coronavirus restrictions. He said it also depends on compliance with the rules that came into effect on Saturday, but these will hardly be reflected in the data released over the course of this week.
The Cabinet will check whether the visible trends resemble the forecast from the RIVM forecast. De Jonge thinks that the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) can also provide insights about people's behaviour. This concerns adherence to advice, such as keeping a distance of 1.5 meters and checking coronavirus access passes, and other points announced during last week's press conference.
The number of infections must urgently be reduced because the hospital occupancy is increasing, De Jonge said. "We are concerned about the rising numbers, which affects the accessibility of healthcare." The basic measures are important, said the minister, specifically keeping distance from others, washing hands frequently, and getting tested in the event of health complaints. He said, “The virus dose not spread by itself,” but rather people spread it.
The OMT will issue new advice on Wednesday, which will be discussed in the Cabinet on Thursday. After that, a decision will be made on Friday. The speculation is that coronavirus access passes may be required in more places, such as zoos and non-essential retail stores. De Jonge would not say which locations are still under consideration.
Covid restrictions likely through February
De Jonge also said he thinks the temporary law that makes the coronavirus measures possible should be extended until June next year. "To me, that seems a realistic assumption, because we probably will not be finished with the crisis and restrictions," he told the Tweede Kamer.
Members of the Tweede Kamer must approve an extension of the Temporary Covid-19 Measures Act every three months. On Monday, there discussions about the current phase which has already started and will run until December. This was already the third extension, and De Jonge thinks that a fourth and fifth extension will also be needed.
Several MPs wondered whether the coronavirus measures could not be better accommodated with other legislation, which is not temporary in nature. If it were up to the CDA and ChristenUnie, it will be examined whether certain elements could not be better included in the Public Health Act. GroenLinks pointed out that the temporary law is also more difficult for the Tweede Kamer to control. De Jonge disagreed.
It is already possible for the Tweede Kamer to stop regulating the coronavirus rules via the temporary law. He added that in the longer term, the entire Dutch system for dealing with pandemics will have to be examined. That will take a lot more time, he says. He also wants to include the findings of the Dutch Safety Board and possibly the parliamentary inquiry into the coronavirus crisis in this process.
There was a majority in the Tweede Kamer for the third extension of the coronavirus law.
Reporting by ANP.